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Coronavirus: Makkah restricts entry into holy sites without permit ahead of Hajj

Fines imposed on illegal entry into Makkah come into effect on Sunday until August 2 ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage being held this year in a limited capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic, Makkah authorities announced.

Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry confirmed last week it will be imposing a fine of 10,000 Saudi riyals ($2,666) for violators entering the holy sites in Mecca without a permit during the upcoming Hajj season.

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“Whoever violates the instructions to deny entry to the holy sites (Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah) without a permit shall be punished starting tomorrow, Sunday, until the end of the 12th day of Dhul Hijjah with a fine of 10,000 riyals, and in the event of a repeat offense, the penalty is doubled,” the Municipality of Mecca said in a tweet.

A small group of worshippers pray at Kaaba in the Grand Mosque while practicing social distancing, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during the holy month of Ramadan, in the holy city of Makkah. (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia will allow limited Hajj pilgrimage this year due to the continued risk of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities confirmed they have limited the number of pilgrims on this year’s Hajj to 10,000 in line with safety concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

 “The penalty for illegal entry into the holy sites in Makkah officially came into effect from midnight and will be in place until the twelfth day of Dhul Hijjah. Relevant authorities began early this year compared to previous years to ensure we put in place the protocols and measures that will ensure a safe Hajj pilgrimage given the global coronavirus pandemic,” Brigadier General Sami al-Shuwairekh, the official spokesperson for the General Security of Makkah, told Al Arabiya.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime. Last year, 2.5 million pilgrims performed their Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.

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